Technology Reshaping E-Commerce Arena
By Adam Pressman, Partner, Retail and Digital Practices, A.T. Kearney
The Customer View
Many eCommerce companies continue to pursue a 360-degree view of the customer. But since “360-degree view” is quite a vague term, we’ve found that a critical first step is defining what “360-degrees” means, for each company. No doubt there’s a ton of information that can be collected, but really focusing on what’s needed to support customer interactions (e.g., order history, contact history) and insights that matter (e.g., preferences, order cadence, loyalty program activity) is a great starting point. Having clear use cases and clear analytics helps demystify what 360-degree views are and why they matter.
“Technology is what enables companies to provide the right information, products and services at the right time, to best support customers and employees”
Technology is Revolutionizing
Technology is what enables companies to provide the right information, products, and services at the right time, to best support customers and employees. It is allowing retailers to more rapidly capture and analyze information, and drive out key insights that matter. At its core, the technology is allowing even better optimization of products, services, and support to align with customer needs. As retailers continue to advance how they best use these new technologies, it will allow for more proactive and responsive interactions. For eCommerce, we expect to see even greater opportunities for personalization and recommendations, as AI and deep learning make those platforms even smarter. For core operations, store employees still remain a critical component, and a combination of new technologies are providing new opportunities to enable them better than ever before. Overall, retail excellence is still about the fundamentals, so while there is no doubt a massive opportunity to improve customer experience, we should remember that by getting elements around merchandising and supply chain correct, customer experience will ultimately benefit as well.
Big Data and Analytics
Big Data and analytics are improving the in-store experience in many ways. Whether it’s understanding how the store is being shopped, informing the role of the store in the fulfillment process, or shaping in-store promotions and content strategies, there are many areas where things are being transformed. The role of the store employee and associated enablement is also being transformed through a combination of insights and devices. Having access to the right information at the right time will continue to help the store and its associated assets be even “smarter” than the interactions are today.
Retail Technology Trends
There are several key technology trends we are watching.
(1) Artificical Intelligence
As elements around pattern recognition and reasoning continue to be enhanced, brands will be able to provide net new ways of providing product recommendations, enable search capabilities, and many context enriching capabilities.
(2) Voice interactions and conversational commerce
Coupled with artificial intelligence and automation, this technology is providing means to be even more human-like in how brands and customers interact.
Various types of “reality” enhancing capabilities will continue to evolve. Each has a different use case and role in terms of enabling customer and brand interactions, but across them all, there are new ways of better understanding user preferences and behaviors to make better decisions regarding the overall business.
(4) Experience / Behavior design.
While not a specific technology, better understanding drivers of consumer behavior and how to respond and shape them, will continue to be an area of focus. One can imagine that while the Data Scientist will continue to be in need, the role of a “Behavior Scientist” will only continue to increase as well.